The Most Important Plan You Hope You Never Have to Use

Whether you are dealing with a product failure or recall, a lawsuit or a crime committed by an employee – all crises have in common the potential to damage the reputation of your Company (or your client’s company). You rarely see them coming. But, the good news is that there are things you can do to be prepared and minimize the damage.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a short list of tips:

Have a Plan

With the immediate nature of today’s news cycle, the first hour is the most important in any crisis. It is critical for companies to be prepared before a crisis hits, with a crisis communications plan.

At a minimum, the plan should include:

  • List of potential crisis scenarios relevant to the Company
  • Appropriate steps that must be taken, with a timeline
  • Protocol for communications (who will be the spokesperson, what are the steps)
  • List of crisis communications team members (internal legal counsel and head of corp. communications are mandatory)
  • List of communications targets, including employees, media, local community, board members, etc.
  • List of communications channels available and which will be used

Get the Facts and Prepare Your Response

Quickly gather information on the situation from all available sources and draft the materials you will need to respond. Do your best to understand what the key concerns are and how you can address those concerns directly. Determine what will be kept confidential and what will be shared.

Create the materials you will need:

  • Detailed Q&A
  • Media statement or press release
  • Key messages/talking points documents for spokespersons

Be sure that your response addresses the following key questions:

  • What happened?
  • How did it happen?
  • What is the current situation?
  • What was your initial response?
  • What is your long-term response?

Respond Swiftly and with Sincerity

With your spokespeople and response in place, it’s time to communicate to your targets, which may entail one or all of the following:

  • Issue a communication to your board, customers, partners
  • Issue a memo to employees
  • Issue a press release or a statement
  • Grant interviews to the media
  • Post information on website and let media know of its existence
  • Communicate through your Company’s available social media channels

Be sure to provide updated information as often as possible. If answers are not immediately available, it is important to highlight the actions being taken to obtain these answers. Always tell the truth and never speculate.

Remember that is it often the response to the crisis, rather than the crisis itself, that determines perception. So, in the unfortunate case of a crisis, a little planning can go a long way toward a positive outcome to a crisis situation.

Post by Jen Moritz
Zer0 to 5ive Managing Principal
Twitter: @j_moritz
Image courtesy of iStockPhoto